Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential race has sent a chill through the U.N. climate talks taking place this week in Morocco. The summit aims to put policy detail on last year’s landmark Paris Climate Accord, but Trump has pledged to tear up that agreement, to re-open coal mines and push ahead with shale oil and gas projects.
The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, largely through reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
More than 100 countries have ratified the deal in just one year, including the United States and China. Remarkable progress, says Professor Samuel Fankhauser of the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.
“One of the reasons why we have the momentum that we currently see, why we have Paris and the fast ratification of Paris has been US leadership,” said Fankhauser.
U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump once described climate change on Twitter as a hoax concocted by China to undermine the competitiveness of U.S. industry.
On the campaign trail, he vowed to tear up the Paris deal within 100 days of office and re-focus on U.S. energy independence.
“We are going to put the miners back to work, we are going to put the miners back to work,” said Trump. "We are going to get those mines open.”
A U-turn by Washington could undermine the global efforts to reduce emissions, says Fankhauser.
“Taking that leadership role away would create a vacuum, there is no question about that,” said Fankhauser. "The good news, if there is good news, is that once the Paris agreement is in force as it now is, and the U.S. is a member of it, leaving it is quite a lot more difficult than ever joining it.”
Delegates gathering at U.N. climate talks in Morocco fear their progress could be undone.
“If he (Trump) withdraws (from the Paris Climate Agreement), it means everything is going backwards and it will not be good for the world,” said Weram Mannasseh Chlanga, a member of the Malawian delegation.
Observers say the full impact of the Trump victory will not be known for several months, leaving an uncertain future for the landmark Paris Agreement.